European football in crisis over breakaway league

AP
The 12 European clubs planning to start a breakaway Super League said they have begun legal action aimed at fending off threats to block the competition.
AP

The 12 European clubs planning to start a breakaway Super League have told the leaders of FIFA and UEFA that they have begun legal action aimed at fending off threats to block the competition.

The letter was sent by the group of English, Spanish and Italian clubs to FIFA President Gianni Infantino and UEFA counterpart Aleksander Ceferin saying the Super League has already been underwritten by funding of 4 billion euros (US$4.8 billion) from a financial institution.

But late Monday, Ceferin warned that players from the 12 rebel clubs could be banned from this year’s European Championship and next year’s World Cup.

“They will not be able to represent their national teams at any matches,” Ceferin said. “UEFA and the footballing world stand united against the disgraceful self-serving proposal we have seen in last 24 hours from a select few clubs in Europe that are fueled purely by greed above all else.”

UEFA’s 55 member federations are gathering for an annual meeting on Tuesday, including 24 nations that are playing in Euro 2020.

“My opinion is that as soon as possible they (the clubs) have to be banned from all our competitions, and the players from all our competitions,” Ceferin said.

Currently, teams have to qualify each year for the UEFA Champions League through their domestic leagues, but the Super League would lock in 15 places every season for the founding members. The seismic move to shake up the sport is partly engineered by the American owners of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, who also run franchises in closed US leagues — a model they are trying to replicate in Europe. Three of the 12 rebels — Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid — are scheduled to play in the Champions League semifinals this month.

“We are concerned that FIFA and UEFA may respond to this invitation letter by seeking to take punitive measures to exclude any participating club or player from their respective competitions,” the Super League clubs wrote to Infantino and Ceferin in a letter.

“Your formal statement does, however, compel us to take protective steps to secure ourselves against such an adverse reaction, which would not only jeopardize the funding commitment under the Grant but, significantly, would be unlawful. For this reason, SLCo (Super League Company) has filed a motion before the relevant courts in order to ensure the seamless establishment and operation of the Competition in accordance with applicable laws.”

The breakaway was launched just as UEFA thought it had agreement on an expansion of the Champions League from 2024. Now, the same officials who backed the plans have decided to go it alone while claiming the existing competitions could remain — despite losing their most successful teams, including record 13-time European champion Real Madrid and six-time winner Liverpool.

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